My main interest towards Firefox OS derives from the fact that it is Free Software and that it is by Mozilla, an organisation that knows about the importance of free software and that fights for an “open web”. They also don’t hide that Mozilla heavily relies on Free Software technologies.
Given this background and the market share of Mozilla software – this leads me to the idea that Mozilla can play a crucial role in spreading software freedom into the mobile world and the world of connected devices. Even more as Mozilla publicly announced that they like to use Firefox OS as a Pivot to Connected Devices to
explore and prototype new use cases in the world of connected devices as an open source project with a clear focus on the user benefit and experience.
I like to argue, that a clear benefit to the user experience would be to easily find and use Free Software inside Firefox OS and therewith support Mozilla’s idea of “Open Web”. With the upcoming “internet of things”, it will be crucial that the people are in control of the technology and the devices that surrounds them. And as one simple but effective step towards that vision, I propose that Mozilla has a clearer information policy inside the Firefox OS market place. Please, add some information or label to make finding Free Software an easy thing. Make the use and the promotion of Free Software a concept inside Firefox OS, it’s market and add-ons. This would be a true benefit for the user.
About a Free Software information policy in Mozillas market place
In the current state of Mozillas marketplace, the only information you can see is an “Install for free” label for apps inside the marketplace. I expect that “Install for free” shall mean that you do not have to pay for the software and that an alternative label will come up to show a price (have not seen other information label so far). If so, however, this information is too simple as it is only about price. And Free Software is not about price. It is about having control, independence from vendor lock-ins and computing in freedom. Aspects that are priceless.
Given that Mozilla assigns the market entry of Firefox OS to offer an open source operating system for mobile devices – the less I can understand that they put no emphasis on this in their market place. There is no information included, if an app is Free Software or not. Well, developers can add this information inside the free text in the “detailed” view of an app – but no chance for users to see it at a glance.
I will demonstrate this for the “maps & navigation apps” category in the marketplace, because navigation apps are to me one of the most useful technologies of a mobile device.
Now, if I look into the marketplace of Firefox OS, I have the choice between:
Find Me Google
but I have no chance to see at a glance which of these apps are Free Software and which not. All appear to be the same in their service model, telling “Install for free”. But in fact, they are not the same.
Cartes, based on OpenStreetMap, is the only Free Software app – all others are proprietary and therewith in principle a threat to Mozillas “Open Web”. So why the hack not highlighting the fact that Cartes is Free Software / Open Source?
It could be so simple: Just adding a label or a symbol to mark Free Software would help users and developers so much to choose the road to freedom – in a simple way.
Doing so would help triple: Users could easily see where to go to exercise freedom, developers see where they can contribute or adapt and those who do not yet know or care about software freedom get an incentive to look what such a label refers too.
With Firefox OS, Mozilla has a good chance to spread freedom into the mobile world. A clear benefit to the user experience would be to easily find and use Free Software and therewith support Mozilla’s idea of “Open Web”.